Our political parties’ mindset will never change. The quest of the three political parties to control the media seems unquenchable.
In the light of media reports on the alleged agreement among Zanu PF and the two Movements for Democratic Change (MDCs) to restructure the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) board and the Mass Media Trust (MMT) through the respective party deployments is tantamount to a perpetual entrenchment of State control of Zimbabwe’s “public media”.
The concept which led to the establishment of the MMT was to create a buffer structure against government control of the public media.
The Trust became the owner of the Zimpapers group on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe. In essence, it was a non-partisan vehicle for media development.
Due to the fact that the Trust was a not-for-profit institution, it aided to the development of media through its stakes in Kingstons Distributors.
Some of the remittances from such a developmental outlook had to be ploughed into the growing of the journalism fraternity through channelling financial support to the Division of Mass Communications at the Harare Polytechnic.
Even the Nigerian government could not help but be part to such clarity of purpose through its donation as part of the acquisition plan of majority control from Cape Argus and the simultaneous establishment of the Trust.
One can only wish that the ZBC board should have been modelled in the same format. The thinking which was initially behind the MMT should have cascaded to the transformation of ZBC.
Given the afore-stated short history on the evolution of the MMT before it was mutilated by the then Minister of Information Jonathan Moyo, the treachery of the current manoeuvres by the three political parties constituting the State has the following effects:
• It militates against the founding principles of turning the Zimpapers’ stable into a genuine public media. In essence, the proposed political parties’ deployments are an entrenchment of State control in the media;
• It unmasks the hidden force of a domineering and hegemonic political parties’ mindset on the media and triggers endless questions on the concept of whole-hearted media reforms;
• The political parties seem to be jostling for political leverage ahead of the elections and have lost the ideals which govern genuine media reforms;
• The proposed 3-3-1 deployment formula to the MMT has nothing to do with media free agenda, but an apportionment of control stakes by the political parties in government over the Zimpapers stable; and
• The MDCs are equally desirous and covetous of controlling ZBC than reforming it, hence the quest to staff the board with party loyalists the same way Zanu PF has been running the board.
The concept of ensuring that this board reports to Parliament and reflects the diversity of the people of Zimbabwe has been forgotten in this battle for political space.
There must be clarity, therefore, when the politicians come out in public with such positions.
It’s not about reforms of the media in this case, but an apportionment of domains of control.
The declaration of intent by the political order of the day seeks to redefine the boards in question under a false pretence of transformation.
As a way forward, the three political parties which constitute the government have a role to set up a framework of media reforms and allow the citizens irrespective of political affiliation, socio-economic class, and ethnicity to decide the way in which their media reflects the societal aspirations and way of life.
The government of Zimbabwe should therefore not be allowed to staff its political outfits on our media boards for political expedience.
•Tabani Moyo can be contacted at email@example.com